| Tyler Lederer
WESTFIELD — Kimberley Betts, president of Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply in Westfield, was recently named the winner of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I am flabbergasted, to be quite honest,” she said. “It was very unexpected.”
Betts said she was honored to be a part of the chamber, whose members she admires. Asked if she’d like to thank anyone, she said so many people have helped her get to where she is, from family to other business owners.
“It takes a village to make a person,” she said.
Betts lives in Southwick. She has lived in the area all her life. Volunteer work, she said, was part of her upbringing. She has been a service manager for the Hilltown-area Girl Scouts, worked at a homeless shelter, has been active on the chamber board of commerce and in her children’s education.
Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply was started in 1959 by Betts’ grandparents. When her grandfather died in 1961, her mother had the choice of either moving to Boston to become a nurse or continue running the business. She chose to continue, running it until 1992. Her father took over the business then, running it until a double lung transplant forced him to step aside in 2011. Betts took over from there.
The Greater Westfield Chamber has been integral to the success of the business, Betts said. Her grandmother did not have a team, a computer system or the internet. She would call the chamber when she needed a driver to make deliveries. Betts today is working with a “wonderful team, wonderful community,” Google, and a computer system, she said.
Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply delivers plumbing and heating supplies for residential and commercial purposes. It has done work recently for Harvard University, as well as local organizations like Westfield Public Schools.
As president, Betts “[does] everything except two things,” she said. She does not thread pipe nor does she drive the forklift.
“I would just hit one of our bins and they would go like dominoes,” she joked.
The most rewarding part of her job, she said, is watching other employees do their best. The most challenging is being a woman in a male-dominated industry. She feels she has to prove she knows her industry. She said although she’s the business owner, sometimes when she’s helping a customer, the customer will look to the male employee at the counter for reassurance that she’s giving good advice.
In one instance, she was at an industry meeting for supply houses in the Northeast. She was in the elevator without her badge on when a man said that “these meetings aren’t what they used to be now that women come.” Betts said she responded to him by saying her business had been owned by a woman since 1961. There were 104 men at the conference and only three women.
“These are the barriers that a lot of women experience in any industry,” she said. “It’s just to me more exemplified because I have less peers.”
Betts said the average plumber right now is in his or her mid-60s. Younger people, she said, see the benefit of a coed work environment, but young people aren’t entering the industry. She believes that, since there’s a movement to encourage young people to enter the trades, there will eventually be more acceptance.
“The time is coming, it’s just helping blaze the trail,” she said.
In a statement announcing their annual award winners, chamber Executive Director Amanda Waterfield said the awards go to those with the greatest impact on the chamber and Greater Westfield.
“We have a robust community of members, both businesses and individuals, who contribute to the success and vitality of our chamber,” she said. “Our awards committee considered a range of candidates for these awards, and ultimately selected entities that had the greatest impact on both the chamber and our communities.”
Other awardees this year are Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport and the Massachusetts Air National Guard 104th Fighter Wing, businesses of the year; Westfield on Weekends, nonprofit of the year; and Rick Rheault of Integrity Merchant Solutions, member of the year. Awardees were scheduled to be honored at a Nov. 15 event at Shaker Farms Country Club. The Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce represents the business community of Westfield, Southwick, Blandford, Chester, Granville, Huntington, Montgomery, Russell and Tolland.